Follow TV Tropes


Web Video / The Mercury Men

Go To

The Mercury Men is an indie sci-fi web serial, syndicated on Syfy's website in 2011. Filmed in black and white, it combines elements of Dieselpunk, Raygun Gothic and atomic punk, with a feel reminiscent of The Outer Limits (1963).

Edward Borman, a lowly government office drone, finds himself trapped when the deadly Mercury Men seize his office building as a staging ground for their nefarious plot. Aided by a daring aerospace engineer from a mysterious organization known as The League, Edward must stop the invaders and their doomsday device, the Gravity Engine.

The Mercury Men provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Aaron Kleiber once again plays a janitor named Daryl.
  • Adventurer Outfit: Jack Yaeger wears the standard Raygun Gothic version.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The Mercury Men are never depicted as anything other than antagonistic towards humans.
  • Alien Invasion: A small-scale one, as men from Mercury take over an office building as part of a plan to pull the Moon into the Earth.
  • Aliens Never Invented the Wheel: Apparently, the Mercury Men have sophisticated technology; they can transport between worlds and manipulate gravity. But going from planet to planet via chemical-propelled rockets is something new and threatening to them.
  • All There in the Manual: The official website provides tons of supplementary material, including blueprints, digital props, and faux-1960’s trading cards.
  • Alliterative Title: The Mercury Men.
    Several episodes titles do this as well, including "Skyscraper Saboteurs" and "Enemies of Earth.
  • Always Save the Girl: At a critical moment, Edward takes time from helping Jack to make sure Grace gets to safety.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Gravity Engine.
  • A-Team Firing: Jack misses practically every shot he takes during the opening gunfight, only managing to hit his opponent after dropping a door on top of them and shooting them point-blank.
    • When Edward is tasked with holding off several Mercurians while Jack reverses the polarity of the Gravity Engine, he fires multiple rounds before managing to hit one of them, despite the Mercurians remaining stationary the whole time. Cue this exchange:
    Edward: I got one!
    Jack: Only one?!
  • Badass Boast: Jack gets one when the Battery threatens to kill his love interest before the Moon falls.
    Jack: I know you can read my thoughts, so know that I'm not lying when I say this: before this night is over, I'm going to crack open that jar and I'm going to crush you with my own hand.
    • Doctor Tomorrow gets one when Edward asks what he is:
    Dr. Tomorrow: "I am the herald of the Great Worlds, captain of the Ocean of Storms, and commander of the League. I am Doctor Tomorrow."
  • Behind a Stick: Edward tries this, hiding behind a narrow metal pole. It's actually a ruse, to get them to fire their electrical blasts at the pole to jump-start the gravity engine.
  • Big Bad: The Chief Designer. From notes on the website, he may be Soviet top scientist Sergei Korolev, who officially died in 1966 but may have faked his death.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The other League members show up just when all hope seems lost.
  • Blind Without Them: Edward can't see a thing without his glasses.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted/subverted. Although The League’s zap-gun-of-choice - the Lumiére - resembles a modified six-shot revolver, so at first glance this trope appears to be played straight, the blueprints on The Mercury Men website reveal that each of the six glowing mercury pin bullets is good for 24 shots, for a total of 144 energy blasts per full reload! Finite yeah, but still — Gene Autry, eat your heart out! It does, however, seem to run out at the most inconvenient times.
  • Brain in a Jar: The "Batteries", thirteen scientists who sold their allegiance to The Chief Designer in exchange for "life indefinite".
  • Brick Joke: Grace’s form still needs stamping eight episodes later. The final fate of the brain-in-a-jar probably counts too.
  • Buck Rogers: Edward calls Jack this in one episode. In Episode 10 there is a callback, as Edward receives a package from "Buck Rogers" containing Lumiére bullets.
  • The Cavalry: The other League members.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It looks like the Lumiére might actually be this in the 10th episode cliffhanger.
  • Colony Drop: The Mercury Men plan to destroy the Earth by pulling the Moon into it.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Done silently but forcefully by Jack to Edward.
  • Cowardly Sidekick: Edward is almost literally afraid of his own shadow.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Chris Preksta appears in the penultimate episode as one of the League members that shows up to save Edward and Jack from the Mercury men.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Filmed in color, but with chiaroscuro lighting and then converted to black and white. The director and cameramen actually had black and white monitors to make sure they got the look just right.
    • Inverted with the montage from Episode 6, which was deliberately shown in color to capture the excitement of the Space Race.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: The Lumiére's bullets.
  • Dieselpunk: Mixing Sixties Sci-fi themes with Thirties-style Raygun Gothic.
  • Distant Finale: While the first nine episodes take place over the course of a single night, the tenth and final episode is set some time the following year.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Dr. Tomorrow takes control of a television set to give Edward a message.
  • Doomsday Device: The Gravity Engine
  • Double Take: Edward nearly gets shot by a near miss from Jack's gun. He glances behind him briefly to see that the bullet has hit an image of Abraham Lincoln square in the head, then does a doubletake.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: The Chief Designer is the mastermind behind the men from Mercury's evil plan, but never appears in person. Instead, the Battery is in charge of the invasion.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Edward's idea for getting Jack near the Gravity Engine.
  • Dutch Angle: Most of the film, to show how disorienting this all is to Edward.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: Given that their goal is to crash the Moon into the Earth rather than outright conquest, only a dozen or so Mercurians are sent to Earth to deploy the Gravity Engine. Their entire operation is thwarted by a single member of the League and an (unwilling) office drone, armed with a single pistol between the two of them.
  • Energy Beings: The Mercury Men.
  • Extra Eyes: The Mercury engineers' suits have three eyeholes. Apparently the Mercury Men have an extra eye.
  • Extreme Doormat: Edward gets pushed and pulled around by Jack throughout the series.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The first nine episodes take place in the span of about 12 hours.
  • Foreshadowing: When the men of Mercury first attack Edward's office, an unarmed janitor is hit by lightning at least four times before dying, foreshadowing Jack surviving being struck down during the climax.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Jack calls the League for help, but is told they won't get there in time.
  • Good with Numbers: When Jack breaks his pencil, he does the complex gravity equations in his head.
  • Gravity Master: The Chief Designer.
  • Gun Twirling: Jack holsters his weapon with a flourish.
  • Gustav Holst: His The Planets suite is featured throughout the series' soundtrack (possibly another shout-out to The Right Stuff).
  • Hammerspace: Most of the things Jack pulls from his utility belt wouldn't actually fit in it.
  • Hard Light: The Lumiére's bullets. And the Mercury Men themselves.
  • He Had a Name: Before killing the sniper that killed Glenn, Jack tells him, "You shot the wrong man. His name was Patrick Glenn. Apologize when you see him."
  • Hologram: Jack uses a hologram of a Mercury man to distract a sniper.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The Mercury Men, also called "the first men" in the series, are humanoid in appearance, but are taller, thinner and stoop (supposedly because of Earth's greater gravity). They are also composed of Hard Light and apparently have a Third Eye.
  • Humans Are Special: At least according to Dr. Tomorrow.
    Dr. Tomorrow: "I was witness to the greatest and most dangerous adventure on which man had ever embarked- the impossible. It is because of their ingenuity, their immeasurable capacity for bravery, that I have chosen the men of Earth to serve in my League as the Men of Tomorrow. Ambassadors to the new worlds, and custodians of this great and dangerous new way of travel which they have introduced to the greater galaxy."
  • I Can't Do This by Myself: Said by Edward, often.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: Jack gives Edward his gun at the end of Episode 9, implying he'll need it later.
  • Jump Scare: When the Mercury engineer appeared out of the darkness at the end of Episode 10.
  • Left Hanging: Episode 10 ends with a Cliffhanger, but a second season is never filmed.
  • Lean and Mean: The antagonistic Mercury men are much taller and slimmer than humans due to lower gravity of Mercury.
  • Light Is Not Good: The men of Mercury are composed of pure light, and are anything but good.
  • Light Worlder: It never becomes relevant to the plot, but Mercury's gravity is about 38% that of Earth's. Jack's journal notes this is the reason for the Mercury Men's hunched postures.
  • Manipulative Bastard: According to Jack, the Chief Designer, who gave the Mercurians the technology to invade the Earth and crash the Moon into it, was able to manipulate them into doing so by exploiting their fear of humanity.
  • Meaningful Name: The hero, Jack Yaeger.note 
    • Another League member is named Glenn.
    • And the nebbish accountant who's bored with his job... Edward Borman.
      • Who was actually named after Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman.
    • The leader of the futuristic League is named Dr. Tomorrow.
  • My Girl Back Home: Jack confides in Edward that he has a girl back home in Fairborn, Ohio. The Battery threatens her life later on.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Apparently this universe never heard of the Roche Limit. Possibly justified, as we don't really know how the Gravity Engine works.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Averted. It's specifically stated that turning off the engine won't fix the problem. It has to be reversed.
  • Oblivious Janitor Cut: At least until the Mercury Men zap him.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Edward's Establishing Character Moment has him tell a lady that his office closed at 7, despite the clock on the wall reading 6:55. When she looks back to confront him, Edward is nowhere to be seen and there is a "Sorry, We're Closed" sign sitting on his desk.
    • After he witnesses Edward being ambushed by a Mercury engineer when he steps into an elevator, Jack is somehow waiting for them when the doors open several floors down.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: A construction worker electrocuted by the Mercury Men is reanimated to carry around one of the Batteries.
  • Phlebotinum-Handling Equipment: Inverted - The Mercury Engineers wear special suits not because the Gravity Engine is dangerous to handle, but because they are made of light and can't handle it without wearing the suit.
  • Playing Possum: Edward and Grace pretend to be dead as a Mercury Man walks by.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Jack gets one just before shooting a Mercurian point-blank as it rounds a corner:
    Jack: Lights out.
  • Quizzical Tilt: One of the Mercurian Engineers does this while strangling Edward in the elevator. The Director's Notes edition of the series indicates that the Mercurians are not accustomed to humans and often show curiosity towards them.
  • Ray Gun: Jack's pistol, the Lumiére, fires "mercury pin" bullets, made of Hard Light. Apparently it is the only thing that can kill the Mercury Men.
  • Raygun Gothic: Much of the serial evokes this genre. The hero himself, Jack Yaeger, is dressed as a typical Raygun Gothic pilot (Bomber jacket, flight cap and goggles, jodhpurs and jackboots), and carrues a raygun.
  • Refusal of the Call: After nearly being choked to death in an elevator by an alien, Edward loses his cool and stands up to Jack, refusing to go on.
  • Retraux: The series is Deliberately Monochrome, evoking the look of a 1950's science fiction B-Movie.
  • Reverse Polarity: Jack has to do this to the Gravity Engine - with Edward's help - to put the moon back in its proper orbit.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: The Lumiére resembles a modified six-shot revolver.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After Jack is captured, Edward walks into the hall and his gaze lingers on an "EXIT" sign, symbolizing his temptation to abandon Jack. Moments later, while Edward tries to call for help using Jack's radio, his shadow on the wall looks like he's praying.
    • After nearly being strangled by the Mercury engineer, Edward tries to leave while Jack convinces him to stay to help save the world. The way this shot is framed is with Edward in the foreground and Jack standing far behind him, so that Jack appears over Edward's shoulder, symbolizing his conscience.
  • Schizo Tech: The story is set in the mid-Seventies. But the lighting - and the monsters - looks like The Outer Limits (1963) (the titular Mercury Men, and the static sound they make, are very reminiscent of the "Galaxy Being" in the eponymous first Outer Limits episode), Edward's and Grace's outfits look Fifties-ish, and Jack's outfit evokes The '30s. And it mixes Dieselpunk, Raygun Gothic, Atomic Punk, horror and other genres seamlessly.
  • Science Hero: Jack's skills in mathematics and engineering are what ultimately foil the invader's plans, even more so than his gunslinging.
  • Sequel Hook: In the final episode, Jack discovers that Edward is being targeted by the Mercurians. The series ends with Edward receiving a package of Lumiére bullets from Jack right before a Mercurian emerges from the shadows behind him. Doubles as a Bolivian Army Ending as it seems unlikely the series will be continued.
  • Shock and Awe: The Mercury Men's main weapon.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A visual one in Episode six, where Dr. Tomorrow controls the transmission.
    • In Episode 10, Edward gets a package from "Buck Rogers" (Yaeger) full of Lumiére bullets.
    • The two named league agents are Yaeger and Glenn, and the main character is named Borman, all references to key figurs in the US Space Program.
    • The elevator fight scene was inspired by the fight between James Bond and Red Grant in From Russia with Love, which takes place aboard a cramped train car.
    • The scene where Jack cautiously approaches the brain-in-a-jar is a deliberate homage to Indiana Jones' approaching the gold idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
    • Dr. Tomorrow's appearance is inspired by the Magic Mirror from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • Soviet Super Science: The Chief Designer who masterminds the plan to crash the Earth into the Moon may have been Sergei Korolev, the former head of the Soviet space program.
  • Space Base: The abandoned Mercury Men's base on Mercury.
  • Stock Footage: Stock photos and video of the Apollo moon missions are used during Doctor Tomorrow's speech explaining why Earth is being targeted by Mercury.
  • Supernatural Aid: Dr. Tomorrow, to Edward.
  • The War Has Just Begun: Jack, to Edward, when he gives him his gun. "This is only the beginning. Godspeed."
  • This Can Not Be: Edward's initial reaction to Jack telling him that the Men from Mercury are planning to crash the Moon into the Earth is to claim that it's not possible.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Well, more like half a level. While Edward does not achieve true bad-assitude, his ray-gun marksmanship skills improve somewhat during his twelve-hour ordeal (once he learns to keep his eyes open, anyway), as do both his willingness to put himself into harms way and his ability to think on his feet.
  • Two-Fisted Tales: Deliberately meant to be an homage to old-time serials. "Drawing from the same retro serials that inspired such films as Star Wars and Indiana Jones..., The Mercury Men reintroduces audiences to the great mystery, danger, and suspense the stories were originally known for."
  • Weird Moon: The Mercury Men try to pull the Moon down to crash into the Earth, and almost succeed. Strangely, there are none of the resultant tidal quakes, flooding and other disasters that should have happened in such an event.
    • Also, the moon is always shown as full, even when it should be eclipsed by the Earth.
  • Wilhelm Scream: A faint one, thrown in as a gag, when a green army man falls off a shelf when the gravity engine is turned on.
  • White Collar Worker: Edward.
  • You Are Better Than You Think: Dr. Tomorrow gives this speech to Edward to encourage him to rescue Jack from the Mercury Men.
    Dr. Tomorrow: "You share these same abilities. And though you search every crack to escape, now that you see there is none, you will face the situation."
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Words to this effect are said by Edward, several times.
  • Zeerust: Jack uses a slide rule and notebook to do complex gravity calculations.